How To Be An Artist

I walk the dog most mornings and as I do, I listen to an audiobook.  It’s my time to take in the day and prepare myself for whatever the day may bring.  If the audiobook is a good one, the thoughts presented stay with me throughout my day.  If the audiobook is not a good one, I switch to music.

seth godin being an artist

Seth Godin

For the past couple weeks, I’ve listened to The Icarus Deception by Seth Godin.  I’ve been aware of Seth Godin since I saw him on the cover of Entrepreneur magazine for the February 2013 issue.  Seth is a writer who asks questions of our selves and urges his readers to open their minds to a broader perspective.  At least, that’s how I see it.

In the Icarus Deception, Seth writes about what an artist is.  The concept is that we are encouraged as a society to remain insignificant, but in order to realize our full potential, we must think outside the box.  Seth explores the problems with limiting our self-images to the propaganda of corporate myths, and the solutions to broadening our personal views of the world and our selves individually.

So far, it’s a great book, or rather an audiobook.  Seth narrates it himself.

You can get the book or audiobook by clicking the picture to the right.

The Icarus Deception goes over some sticky ground.  The area of claiming what art is and isn’t, and what it takes to become an artist, is a path beaten down by cliché and arrogance.  It’s a great conversation for a twenty year old in a coffee shop or the weird old guy wearing a beret, also in the coffee shop.  Usually, I stray away from the topic, but Seth lays down claims that have resurrected my thoughts on the subject.

“An artist is someone who uses bravery, insight, creativity and boldness to challenge the status quo.  And an artist takes it (all of it: the work, the process, the feedback from those we seek to connect with) personally.

Art isn’t a result; it’s a journey.  The challenge of our time is to find a journey worthy of your heart and your soul.”  -Seth Godin

The more I create art, no matter what medium, I find that I work toward exactly what that quote proclaims.  Seth Godin’s books seem to focus on how we do business, but they are really a call to your inner spirit, a call to the Art Spirit.

The Art Spirit is a book by Robert Henri published in 1923.  It is not a very popular book by Amazon’s standards, but it is so rich in inspiration and insight in to what it means to be an artist, that no artist, whatever your medium, should be without it.

You can get The Art Spirit by clicking the picture on the right.

On the first page of The Art Spirit, Robert Henri writes:

“Art when really understood is the province of every human being.

It is simply a question of doing things, anything, well.  It is not an outside, extra thing.

When the artist is alive in any person, whatever his kind of work may be, he becomes an inventive, searching, daring, self-expressing creature.  He becomes interesting to other people.  He disturbs, upsets, enlightens, and he opens ways for a better understanding.  Where those who are not artists are trying to close the book he opens it, shows there are still more pages possible.”

This, along with Seth Godin’s book, has me more excited about art than I’ve been in a long time.  It’s easy to become a little complacent.  And it’s no wonder that I paint far less than I used to.  An artist can lose sight of the Art Spirit, and fall into being merely a craftsman.

I’m very busy this month with a variety of work that I love doing.  I am also very much looking forward to whatever time I make for creating something.

Art is what you make of it.  I’ve often said that art is the event of communication between someone who has created something and someone who witnesses it.  That’s fine enough, but for me, personally,  art has to be more.

I don’t know what I’ll paint next.  I have plenty of ideas, I just need to land on whatever I find most challenging, inventive, daring and a true call to my nature.

What will you create next?  Will it ask a question?  Will it tell a story?  Will it be as true to you as you can possibly make it?

Matt Abraxas Fine Art and Illustration Studio

~Matt Abraxas